I was out to dinner with a friend this week and before the appetizers even arrived we got to worrying over this season of Mad Men. ”You don’t think Don is going to have an affair with Sally’s teacher?” she asked. Please, I said. Every time folks claim to know what’s coming on this mysterious show they’re inevitably wrong. There’s no chance they’d do something as predic…. Oh no, why is Miss Farrell’s satin bra strap hanging off her shoulder in the international symbol of crazy lady on the make?
The episode opened in Sally’s classroom, with Don squeezed like an eager beaver into a child’s desk. Turns out little Sally shoved a fat girl into the water fountain and she won’t stop obsessing over the details of civil rights activist Medgar Evers’ brutal murder. We already know that Miss Farrell — played somewhat clumsily by Abigail Spencer — is a bit twirly-headed after her romp around the maypole. But now she’s grabbing Betty’s hand in commiseration and worrying over Sally’s grief cycle and bringing up her own childhood hurts. All of her curious emoting drives Betty from the room and I daresay gives Don something to hide under that desk.
When it comes to brunettes who’ve caught the man’s eye, Miss Farrell is the anti-Bobbi. Soft, sensitive, empathetic. And a bit of a mess, judging from that weird after-hours phone call to the Draper house. She seemed drunk, and was leaning into the wall like it was a therapist’s couch, and that bra strap looked like a call for help as she confided to Don that she lost her father when she was only eight years old. ”I might have overdone it relating to Sally in that way,” she said. ”I guess I can get a little caught up in things and lose perspective.” There is something Glenn Close pre-bunny boiling about the woman, but maybe I’m being too hard on her because the idea of another affair makes me weary. Betty appeared at the bottom of the stairs, the baby determined to come into the world, perfect or not. She asked Don who was on the phone and that weasel instinctively said no one. Dammit Don — everything is not going to be fine, as he kept emptily assuring everyone all episode, until you find it within yourself to experiment with telling the truth.
After four episodes of enduring Betty’s bitchiness, we needed last night’s gripping reminder of her vulnerablility. Seeing Don drop her off at the nurse’s station it struck me how truly alone this woman is in the world. Everyone underestimates or abandons her — even her doctor. As she was wheeled down the hall, Don disappeared and an apparition of her dead father mopping the floors popped up only to ignore her. ”Breathe and think about the beauty parlor,” the nurse snarkily told her as she shot Betty full of drugs. I’m not big on richly-colored highly-stylized dream sequences, but I have to wonder if that unlucky caterpillar floating down to her palm on a string is symbolic of the children who come into Betty’s life. She loves the fantasy of being a mother. She’s intrigued by their innocence and the prospects of clean beginnings. But she doesn’t know what to do with such a gift and so, her eyes glinting madly, her child-like instinct is to squash.
NEXT: Betty’s mommy meltdown